Ingrid Bergman: Her Lifelong Dedication to the Art of Acting

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Ingrid Bergman was born in Stockholm, Sweden on August 29, 1915. Her mother, Friedel Adler Bergman, a Hamburg, Germany native, died when Ingrid was just three years old. Ingrid’s father, Justus Samuel Bergman, a Swede, raised Ingrid until his death, when she was 12. Justus, who owned a photography shop, encouraged Ingrid’s artistic pursuits and even caught some scenes of her as a small child with a motion picture camera. Many years later, the famous director Ingmar Bergman (no relation), with whom Ingrid worked, compiled and edited these home movies. After her father’s death, Ingrid was left to the care of an unmarried aunt, who died within months, and she eventually spent her teenage years with an uncle and his family.

As a teenager, Ingrid appeared as a film extra, in addition to acting in productions at the private school she attended. After graduating in 1933, she attended the Royal Dramatic Theater School in Stockholm for a year, during which time she made her professional stage debut. Her first speaking role in a film came in Swedish director Gustaf Molander’s "Munkbrogreven" in 1935, in which she played the maid of a hotel that sold illegal liquor.

The Move to Hollywood

In 1936, Ingrid made the film that would change her life. The picture "Intermezzo," written and directed by Molander, tells the story of a famous violinist who has an affair with his daughter’s piano teacher, played by Ingrid. Her performance caught the attention of Hollywood film producer David O. Selznick, who bought the rights to remake the film in Hollywood with Ingrid in the starring role. Between making the two versions of "Intermezzo, Ingrid worked on the Swedish films "En Enda Natt" ("Only One Night") and "En Kvinnas Ansikte"("A Woman’s Face), among others, and the German film Die Vier Gesellen.

In 1939, at David O. Selznick’s request, Ingrid made the transition to Hollywood. With this move she began a career that would span five decades, win her three Oscars, two Emmys and a Tony Award, and see her image go “from saint to whore and back to saint again,” as Ingrid once described it herself. The Hollywood version of "Intermezzo: A Love Story"was a success, and resulted in Selznick signing Ingrid to a seven-year contract. While she only made two movies with Selznick during the duration of their contract, Ingrid made several other movies and starred in some stage productions during these years as well.

The combined forces of Ingrid’s angelic natural beauty, which she did not embellish with the heavy makeup worn by most actresses at the time, and Selznick’s desire to cast her in “wholesome” roles, won her both the adoration of American audiences and an impeccable image that would follow her throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Ingrid had married Swedish dentist and later neurosurgeon Petter Lindstrom in 1937, and gave birth to a daughter, Friedel Pia, in 1938. Her roles as wife and mother further contributed to her seeming fulfillment of society’s expectations for females and the morality of the period. Both this stereotyping of her image on-screen and the public’s perception of her family life would change dramatically in the years to come as a result of her career choices and her relationship with Roberto Rossellini.

Ingrid’s roles in Hollywood films, including "Adam Had Four Sons" and "Rage in Heaven," both in 1941, helped to create this pure persona. However, she wanted to spread her wings as an actress by taking on more diverse roles. She was originally cast as Dr. Jekyll’s fiancée in the 1941 version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," with Lana Turner as a barmaid named Ivy Peterson. Ingrid approached Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and the movie’s director, Victor Fleming, and asked to switch parts with Lana. The change allowed both Ingrid and Lana to portray characters very different from the ones they usually played. While some critics balked at this alteration to Ingrid’s usual on-screen persona, the role of Ivy Peterson gave her a chance...
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